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Question DetailsAsked on 1/17/2018

What is the best way to clean white insulation facing?

Hello,
Our work shop walls are covered with insulation with this white facing covering all of it. It’s is all about 10-15+ years old. There has been no ripping or tears of the facing. We are planning to get new insulation and facing in the coming years, but what we have now still seems to be doing the trick. The only problem is the white facing has become dirty over the years. I’m contacting you to see what the best way would be to go about cleaning/ wiping down the facing to brighten up our shop until we are able to reinsulate the place? Would a certain cleaning solution (water, soap,alcohol, etc) or cleaning application (cloth, brush, etc) work better?

Thanks so much for your help,
Jon

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Might be white paper (not seen much these days) but most likely is a polypropylene covering on it. First, in most areas exposed faced insulation like this is illegal for fire hazard reasons - certainly in residences under both the old UBC and the more modern IRC codes, and in most are also illegal in commercial buildings. Though if flame spread rating on the facing is 25 or less it is allowed in some areas in commercial buildings which have no "living spaces" - only used for manufacturing or such for instance. In other areas illegal on walls but legal in ceilings.


So - I would look into how legal this is -maybe anonymously with your local building official - especially when you look at replacing it, as you may likely need to go with a fire-rated covering over it - commonly 1/2" drywall, Type X in some areas, in others Type X only required on "firewall" surfaces (which can include ceilings under occupied space). Could be a real red flag come resale time.


I am going to assume this is fiberglass batt or compressed fiberglass board you are talking about - if a fiberboard product like old faced celutex or early faced OSB I would not wash it - too likely to get some water into it and cause degradation of the product. If a modern hard-faced panel product, see recommendations from manufacturers like Ownes Corning or Celutex/Cellufoam.


As for the cleaning - if paper I would say anything more than dusting it off with compressed air and maybe a very light brushing with a hand brush would likely damage it - but that would only remove loose dust, not remove the dirty appearance. Ditto to lightweight poly coating which you can easily tear with your fingers. The heavier poly coatings, and those with a "scrim" - embedded reinforcing fibers which you cannot readily tear by hand - you can clean with a normal laundry soap like Tide or dish soap like Dawn (what I use - cuts grease better too) and a scrub brush - commonly the extensible brushes made for washing cars are used, going gently to avoid pulling the insulation out of place or pulling any taped or glued facing edges loose. For a better job (less streaks like brushes leave) sponges work well, but a lot of labor for a large area. You want to avoid a "wet" surface which will leak into the insulation - you want it just damp enough to clean the surface without significant running - for which sponges work best.


Work from bottom up - sounds counterintuitive, but working from bottom up prevents runs from going down over the dry lower area and staining it - having a cleaned, wet surface below prevents staining by runs as long as you clean them up quickly. Goes best if one person is washing lower surfaces, another upper - with the lower person reaching over to wipe up any runs as soon as they happen.


For quite dirty surfaces like it sounds like you have, two passes will likely be necessary - one bottom to top (frequently rinsing out the sponges or brushes and changing water as it gets dirty), then a second pass from top to bottom while still wet from the first pass.


I would DEFINITELY turn off the power to wall outlets when doing this and masking tape protect the top and sides of switchplates against drips just in case the water gets where it should not, and of course have good fan ventilation running (so not in winter conditions or very humid summer conditions) to promote rapid drying by exhausting the moisture outside so any water which gets into the insulation dries quickly, and to dry any dampened insulation BEFORE turning the outlet power back on.

Answered 10 months ago by LCD




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